Have you ever heard any Indonesian alternative music? You’d think that Indonesian music was limited to dangdut and melodramatic pop rock, when their music is quite diverse. For 3 moths I was discovering beautiful country of Indonesia along with music and food, which was changing from the island to another. As I love to collect new sounds when I travel, I was pleased to listen traditional Indonesian music, especially when mixed with modern sounds.
I invite you for my music journey to Indonesian rainforest where gamelan – traditional Indonesian instrument – blends with the electric guitar. I will show you some bands which still refer to traditional music of Indonesia and some totally modern Indonesian bands which prefer popular genres. However, as I am a fan of alternative music I will stay the off stage. Ready for a journey? Prepare you headphones and enjoy the sounds of Indonesia!
Indonesian alternative music
Thousands of Indonesian islands having its own cultural and artistic history and character, what results in hundreds of different forms of music, which often accompanies dance and theatre. Traveling through traditional music in Indonesia is a long way. For me, the most interesting is how this traditional music transitions in current times. Certain invitation to don’t forget the roots and connect folk with the modern genres. I think it’s very important for young generations. Our journey we will start from traditional, ethnic Indonesian music in a modern arrangement.
Let’s get to know the most popular instrument in Indonesia – gamelan. Although the popularity of gamelan and traditional Indonesian instruments has declined since the introduction of pop music, gamelan is still commonly played on formal occasions and in many traditional Indonesian ceremonies. Gamelan comes from Java Island but for most Indonesians, gamelan is an integral part of Indonesian culture. As you know, I love when modern bands tend to use traditional instruments in a new forms. Look for instance at the piece below performing “Gamelan rock”. Connecting tradition with electric guitar – love it so much! I have seen plenty of covers on YouTube such as Linking Park gamelan, Coldplay gamelan and so on.
Avant-Garde Progressive Rock from an old band Anane, which means in Bahasa Indonesia “simple”. They had just one album “The Evolution Ethnic”, which is all on YouTube and I highly recommend to go through all the songs. It’s totally off stage and in my opinion, very interesting band. Listen to the first song from the album and grab more, if you’ll like it.
Kukami band is a ethnic rock band that refers to ethnic Sundanese music – from west Java Island blended with rock music. Kukami is a collaboration between musicians form Indonesia and Ecuador – such an exotic combination, huh?
Look at these guys! Am I going too much off stage? The Internet is empty when it comes to find some informations about these bands. Or else, alternative music in Indonesia is as little popular as in most of the world. Anyhow, I love what these guys do.
Alternative bands in Indonesia
If I wouldn’t write the bands below are Indonesians, you wouldn’t tell as they play genres popular around the world. I chose few propositions for you, which I found interesting and worth to discover. Most of them are very off stage, not popular at all. I discovered them thanks to local people I was hanging out with, mostly from Couch Surfing.
Those psychedelic rhythms somehow fit to Indonesian spirit, in my opinion. Even though music is totally modern and experimental it reminds me about those native tribes of Indonesia, which perform rituals followed by eating magic mushrooms. Despite fact that I don’t like electronic music, those freaks feed my musical wanderlust. Their songs have slow beginning but be sure to stay on and listen what will happen after few minutes. They are not popular at all however, I appreciate their specific style and consistency.
They describe their music as: Indie/Pop/Rock/Folk/Electronic. I discovered that this kind of music is quite popular in Indonesia, there are many bands playing Indie music as well, but somehow I didn’t fall in love with those. Elephant Kind I like thanks to this freaky song.
Lazyroom is a dreampop, ambient from Yogyakarta (Indonesia). When I listen to them I feel like being on the boat floating on the lake.
It always surprises me when I hear death metal in Muslim country, don’t know why. Maybe because Muslim countries are the most strict about religion and less liberal? However, I have been on the garage bands concert in Indonesia and all were playing this kind of music. It was very interesting experience to see the concert in 2 m square room, all the youngsters dressed in black and going pogo dance. I recalled memories of the time when I was a teenager and going for this kind of concerts regularly and the only difference between Polish experience and Indonesian was that the homemade wine was made out of passion fruit. So exotic 😉 Deadsquad for fans of heavy music:
The star – Ras Muhamad has an honor to have title of ‘Reggae Ambassador of Indonesia’. He is the most popular artist from what I have just shown you and is famous also out of the country. Ras Muhamand has typical Jamaican style reagee, long deadlocks. Recently became the first Indonesian reggae musician to perform in Jamaica, the birthplace of the genre.
I hope you enjoyed the musical journey through Indonesian alternative music. I shared just a few sounds which caught my attention. Please share Indonesian bands you admire, to inspire the others. If you want to travel more without going out of home, check fascinating polish kitchen – avant-garde band or Ukrainian freak cabaret.
The Bee is a nature lover and tea addict. Loves the idea of slow life and responsible traveling, constantly trying to improve to bee more eco-friendly. Appreciates old cultures and traditions, loves to immerse with locals, listen to ethnic music as well as taste regional food and drinks. Her favorite spots while traveling are family houses and street markets.